IT and systems administrators who spend most of their time fighting fires are losing out on opportunities to advance their career, according to recent research released by Opsview, and its latest product update is designed to allow them to focus on being more strategic.
“Systems administrators feel their role is critical because they are the ones in the trenches keeping systems running, but they feel undervalued and stuck in the basement because no one knows what they do,” said Tom Hayes, Opsview’s vice-president of marketing.
The company’s research, conducted in the summer and released last month, found that the more IT staff work on strategic initiatives, the more value they generated for the organization and this correlates with better compensation, which Hayes said was an interesting discovery. It also found that 84 per cent of systems administrators are frequently thinking about how IT fits into the business strategy, while only 28 per cent feel that they get the recognition they deserve. More than half also believe their colleagues both in IT and outside of IT see their role as primarily transactional, rather than strategic.
Opsview’s research has driven a great deal of the improvements to its latest product update, Hayes said. Systems monitoring is essential, but further automation is needed so staff can be more efficient and have more time for other IT projects.
A key feature of Opsview 5, said Hayes, is reducing the time to insight by 50 per cent – essentially, how fast can staff find information they need. This has been addressed with a redesigned user interface. It has a contextual menu to allow staff to drill down and within three clicks understand where a problem may have started, as well as new, simpler graphing capabilities. “The graphing center is a crucial, as most IT admins want to see what has happened over time.”
Other features in Opsview 5.0 include improved dashboards that can be custom-built by users thanks to drag and drop functionality as well as speedier configuration tools to apply security updates to multiple servers in a one fell swoop, for example. Faster configuration and faster insight frees up time for administrators to provide more value, said Hayes, and be able to present information at the CIO level effectively from a business perspective and gain visibility.
Despite the availability of evolved and improved tools such as Opsview, the industry as a whole is still trying to find answers to problems, said Shamus McGillicuddy, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, which has found that 40 per cent of all problems are still discovered by users, not proactively by IT staff doing systems monitoring.
“That’s a pretty big number,” he said. “It’s a big problem. That 40 per cent is all firefighting.”
IT and systems administrators spending most of their time trouble shooting is a recurring theme, said McGillicuddy, and although there are plenty of tools available, vendors often have trouble getting on the calendar to demonstrate their capabilities because IT people are too busy fighting fires to take a meeting.
They are too busy to find time to become more efficient, and are caught in a cycle of using six or seven tools to do what tools like Opsview can do with one, said McGillicuddy. “Some large enterprise have 25 tools,” he said. “When you have that many management tools in place you’re not going to be efficient in managing your network.”
McGillicuddy said Opsview and many other vendors have done is take functions that are traditionally done by point management tools and unified them in one platform. “The value of what Opsview did with 5.0 is that they made it more useable,” he said. “It makes customers more likely to use the tool.”
Right now, it’s second nature for most administrators multiple products to get things done because they are used to it, and McGillicuddy said they’ve become quite efficient at that approach due to familiarity, but’s it’s still not the most efficient way to do things.